The Sugar Directorate has issued permits to nearly all private millers to import 150,000 tonnes of the commodity ahead of the expiry of the Common Market for Eastern and Central Africa (Comesa) duty-free window.
Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) director-general Alfred Busolo said the millers will be operating below their installed capacity in the next 12 months and need to cover for shortfalls caused by low cane supply.
“We have allowed millers to import sugar and sell it to consumers as part of their business because we expect the shortage of cane to continue in the next 12 months. This will help them to meet their financial obligations,” said Mr Busolo.
He said millers will be required to brand imported sugar with their names but they will have to indicate the country of origin.
Consignments are expected to dock at Mombasa port later in the month. The Treasury scrapped duty on sugar imports from outside Comesa in May and allowed traders to bring in unlimited quantities of the commodity.
Kenya is facing a shortage of 1.9 million tonnes of the sweetener following the drought that affected sugarcane growing zones. The sugar industry reported a 34 per cent decrease in production between January and May.
“Sugar production has been on a decreasing trend throughout this year, attributed to the prevailing cane shortage coupled with under-performance of Mumias Sugar Company,” the report says.
Low production has also been attributed to inefficiency by State-owned millers.
The government has been pushing for the privatisation of the millers but the process has been delayed by a court case.